Science camps inspire youth to explore STEM careers

From building bottle rockets to a live video chat with researchers at-sea, Uu-a-thluk’s 2019 science camp season was a memorable one.

A total of 135 Nuu-chah-nulth children and youth attended seven camps aimed at inspiring scientific thought processes, and hopefully one day, careers in science, technology and resource management.

“Now I want to be a scientist,” said ten-year old Taliah, during the Huu-ay-aht First Nation field trip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

Inspired by a boat excursion that included the collection of plankton samples and use of an Aquascope Underwater Viewer, she explained that her interest in science definitely clicked this year.

The goal of Uu-a-thluk science camps is to make STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) fun by engaging participants in hands-on activities and field trips that incorporate Nuu-chah-nulth knowledge and teachings. This year marks the fourteenth season of delivering camps in collaboration with valued partners Science Venture (University of Victoria) and individual Nuu-chah-nulth Nations.

Week-long camps were delivered to Uchucklesaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Hupacasath, Mowachaht/Muchalaht, Huu-ay-aht and Tseshaht First Nation communities. A combined camp with Nuchatlaht and Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nations occurred in Zeballos in June during the school year, and a school-based camp is also planned for Ahousaht in October.

Campers learned about the creation of electricity through a hands-on experiment, and enjoyed the various ‘build-your-own’ activities that included ocean creatures, boats and planets. They also practiced ocean creature identification and participated in mining and fishing activities.

When asked which of the science activities campers appeared to have connected with the most, Aline Carrier, Uu-a-thluk Capacity Building Coordinator, said “The mining and fishing activities … which is really interesting because they’re two big industries on the island.”

The mining activity Carrier is referring to is designed to promote critical thinking around the economics of resource extraction, including the importance of permits and fluctuation of market values.

Hupacasath First Nation campers were treated to the unique opportunity to interact in real-time with Nuu-chah-nulth representatives aboard the 2019 Pacific seamount expedition. A collaborative effort between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council and Ocean Networks Canada, the expedition took place 150 nautical miles west of Vancouver Island and included Joshua Watts (Tseshaht First Nation) and Carrier as crew members.

The live video chat gave campers the chance to tour the CCG John P. Tully vessel research lab virtually, along with the opportunity to ask Watts and Carrier questions about their experience. And ask they did.

“How deep does the underwater robot go?” “Have you discovered any new fish?” “How come the fish heads don’t collapse under all that water pressure?”

The curiosity of the children and youth extended into the various field trips that were built into the camp schedule.

“It’s important to get them out there … to see what science in nature is,” said Carrier of the field trips.

Carrier added that integrating the Nuu-chah-nulth cultural component with the science is also significant. She would like to see the camps continue to fuse the two together.

Uchucklesaht First Nation achieved a great fusion during the field trip to Hucuktlis (Henderson) Lake. Campers watched Tina Halvorsen, Uchucklesaht Fisheries Technician, prepare a fish otolith sample and also learned about the value of local plants through elder T’ip?iniqsip (Tom Rush). They started their day by pausing for a Nuu-chah-nulth prayer.

Science Venture instructor Shawna Eggleston is grateful for the opportunity to have learned more about Nuu-chah-nulth culture while leading the various camps.

“The weekly field trips to different territories helped me learn the Nuu-chah-nulth principles first hand, through hearing stories and watching how elders interacted with the environment,” said Eggleston.

Uu-a-thluk would like to extend a big thank you to participating Nuu-chah-nulth Nation staff who helped coordinate this year’s camps. We would also like to express deep gratitude to our esteemed partner Science Venture, whom we could not deliver the camps without.

For more information about science camps, or to sponsor a child for 2020, visit

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